I walked in almost an hour late, cringing because I thought Mom would be at the door, fuming. Instead, I found my siblings playing in the middle of the living room. Alone.
What was Mom thinking? Yeah, sure, Zack was almost ten but if Brandy had found a random knife laying around and put it in a light socket, he wouldn’t even look up. The kid was that clueless.
“Hey, Zack. Where’s Mom,” I asked as I walked up to them.
“Upstairs,” he said. Still…he was a great big bro. I knew he’d rather be playing with his Voidcritter station than dolls.
“Up! Up!” Brandy cried, waving her arms.
Her face was so cute, I couldn’t say no to her.
Then she leaped into my arms and squeezed. “I love you, Lee Lee.”
When Mala called me that way back when, it was annoying, but with Brandy, it melted my heart. “I love you, too, baby girl.”
Standing, I couldn’t believe that Mom tried to get out of dealing with my siblings today. She’d never been this bad before. I remembered when I was a kid, she was always there, taking care of everything. But ever since Brandy was born, things had changed. I just didn’t get it. Sure, Brandy was a pain in the ass at times, but she was also adorable. And Zack was really smart. Some of the things that came out of his mouth would sometimes blow me away. I knew I never thought about thermodynamics when I was nine. But his brain was wired for science. Always thinking.
Instead of searching for her (because I knew Mom would be at her computer as always), I decided to start dinner. Grilled cheese again. God, I needed to start following recipes. I was like totally bored with the menu of a toddler.
As I carried Brandy into the kitchen, anger flickered. I was going to have it out with Mom. Someone needed to give her a kick in the ass. If Dad wasn’t here to call her out, I would. She shouldn’t neglect her kids.
I plopped Brandy in her chair and made my way to my own grilled cheese feast.
But then my mind spun. I mean, yeah, Mom chunked my siblings on me during the week, but she did spend time with them on the weekends. And it was unlike her just to ghost on us especially when I’d been late. “Hey, squirt. Did Mom say why she went upstairs?”
He shrugged. “She just got a phone call then ran upstairs. Haven’t seen her since.”
“So…she didn’t ask you to watch Brandy?”
Zack shook his head. “Nope. I saw her run up the stairs and so I figured I’d keep an eye on Brandy. You think something’s wrong?”
“No,” I lied. “I’ll go check on her later. Why don’t you eat that work of art I just made you? It took me tons of time slaving over that hot stove.”
I wanted to bolt around the house to ask Mom what was up but Brandy needed to be put to bed.
I read her some bedtime stories. Her favorite–Simmy Tales.
Then kissed her goodnight. I hoped she didn’t pull her stall tricks tonight. She usually asked for water fifteen times before she settled down.
But I got lucky and didn’t hear a peep out of her when I shut off the light.
I searched for Mom in her office but she wasn’t there. Then I went to the media room, the garden room, and even her bedroom. Nothing.
She usually never went into the game room anymore. It was kind of Dad’s hideout with his keyboard and his old posters of his Heartthrob days. Whenever we watched movies as a fam, we’d do it in the media room or hang out downstairs.
But I found her there. In the game room.
My heart jolted.
She was crying.
She didn’t notice me. I stood there bewildered, not knowing what to say. Did someone die? Something happen to Dad? What?
“Mom?” I squeaked out. “Are you okay?”
Wiping her tears, she just nodded and said, “Yeah, sure. I’m okay, Liam.”
I crossed my arms. “Did you know you left Brandy all alone? Don’t give me that bullshit, Mom. What happened?”
Tears trickled down her cheek. “Oh God! I’m sorry!” She sniffed, staring down at the floor. “Is she okay?”
“Yes, Mom. Zack watched her, thank God. I’ve fed her and put her to bed.”
“Thank you, Liam. I…um…I’m just…God. I’m the worst.” She wouldn’t look up at me. Just sat there, twiddling her fingers.
After a minute of her doing nothing–not owning up to what was going on, I walked over to the couch and she moved, making room for me. “What the hell, Mom? Tell me what’s the matter.”
And then I heard Dad’s voice. It was coming from the TV. He was nuzzling his costar. It was an old rerun. I had no clue why the hell it was playing. It was some kind of law that Mom never watched his shows. Especially ones where he was making out with the lead.
“Dad called,” she said. “He’s not coming home. Not for a while.”
My throat tightened. “Are you…?” I couldn’t even process it. Yeah, I’d thought they might split about a thousand times in my life, but I never thought they’d actually do it.
When she didn’t say anything, I forced myself to say it. “Mom, please tell me. Are you and Dad getting a divorce?”
Setting her jaw, she said, “He told me he’s trying out for the part of Robotron.”
I blinked. “Robotron? The kick ass robot slash dude from the Vindicators?” My heart sped up. This was a time for celebration if he got that part. Robotron was the coolest of all the Sarvel superheroes. And Mom LOVED that world. “That’s great news! Why are you acting like someone died?”
She shook her head, pulling into herself. “You don’t understand what it means. I’ve been trying my hardest to break out of that prison cell and now he wants to thrust us back into it. NO! I won’t do that again.” Her shoulders shook as she sobbed.
I rubbed her arm, not understanding what she was saying. “What prison?”
“Fame. It’s a prison. I won’t go back, Liam. I won’t.”
I’d heard from them about the glory days of Dad being a Heartthrob and Mom being some Velvet’s Secret super model. And yeah, some people were still fans now–especially for Dad since he had a show on Simflix, but they weren’t super famous. They were back in the day though–they splashed every cover of every magazine. Paparazzi stalked them. Guess it was a nightmare. I’d never experienced that since we lived in the country away from the limelight, and Dad toned down all his stuff. But it was obvious he couldn’t stay away for long.
Holding Mom, I said, “Maybe he won’t get the part.”
“He will,” she breathed into my chest. “He always gets what he wants.”
Holding her, I didn’t have the words to comfort her. I just rocked, wanting to make her feel better even though I couldn’t.
“I just wish…” she said then trickled off.
“You wish what?”
She sniffed then went on, “I just wish he wanted us.”